How to attract clients with the science of storytelling

If you want to attract high-paying clients, you are going to need to study up on the science of storytelling.

There are some tricks to the trade when it comes to telling a story that attracts clients. According to Scientific American, storytelling is a human universal, and common themes appear in tales throughout history and all over the world.

These common stories, and our natural affinity toward them, can be a powerful tool in the persuading process. By studying narrative’s power to influence beliefs, researchers are discovering how we analyze information and accept new ideas. (Scientific American, August 2008, “The Secrets of Storytelling: Why We Love a Good Yarn”).

If you are in Southern California here is an invitation. You are invited to be my guest at an interactive presentation I am giving on the science and power of storytelling in the sales process. The event is from 7:30 to 9:30 am Tuesday, February 8, 2011 220 Technology Drive, Suite 110, Irvine, CA 92618. Please email Henry at or call 858-534-9955 to arrange a guest pass. This should also be a great networking opportunity too with a couple of dozen business leaders in attendance.

To attract clients you need to tell stories. But not just any stories. You need to tell stories with a hero, villain and wizard. Oh, and by the way, you should never be the hero of the story.

in Irvine, California at The President’s Club Meeting at Sandler Training,

I agree with the Scientific American article that popular tales do far more than entertain. Psychologists and neuroscientists have recently become fascinated by the human predilection for storytelling. Why does our brain seem to be wired to enjoy stories? And how do the emotional and cognitive effects of a narrative influence our beliefs and real-world decisions?

During the presentation we will all play a game that will give us a client attracting story. I hope some of my authors come to tell their stories.

What I have discovered is there are eight basic structures a story can take, based on the classic eight plots that almost all “stories” follow. When I ghostwrite client-attracting books, I believe every business book should tell a story. Also, every chapter should tell a story. These are the eight stories that humans want to hear over and over again. Even anecdotes you tell a prospective client should fit into one of these eight types.

Overcoming the Monster. A terrifying, all-powerful, life-threatening monster whom the hero must confront in a fight to the death. An example of this plot is seen in Beowulf, Jaws, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Dracula. Most business books follow this plot. There is some monster problem in the workplace, and this is how you attack it. The Lynn Coffman and Mike Valentine book, Slay the E-Mail Monster, is a classic example.

Rags to Riches. Someone who has seemed to the world quite commonplace is shown to have been hiding a second, more exceptional self within. Think the ugly duckling, Jane Eyre and Clark Kent. A business book of how someone raised themselves up are an example. One of my early favorites was Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington. Donald Trump books don’t count. He raised himself up from riches to mega riches.

The Quest. From the moment the hero learns of the priceless goal, he sets out on a hazardous journey to reach it. Examples are seen in The Odyssey, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Voyage and Return. The hero or heroine and a few companions travel out of the familiar surroundings into another world completely cut off from the first. While it is at first wonderful, there is a sense of increasing peril. After a dramatic escape, they return to the familiar world where they began. Alice in Wonderland and The Time Machine are obvious examples; but The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind also embody this basic plotline. The Prodigal Executive by Bruce Heller is an example of a business book with this kind of plot.

Comedy of Errors. Think of the movie “Tootsie” or “Some Like it Hot.” Following a general chaos of misunderstanding, the characters tie themselves and each other into a knot that seems almost unbearable; however, to universal relief, everyone and everything gets sorted out, bringing about the happy ending. Shakespeare’s comedies come to mind, as do Jane Austen’s novels like Sense and Sensibility.

Tragic Fatal Flaw. A character through some flaw or lack of self-understanding is increasingly drawn into a fatal course of action which leads inexorably to disaster. King Lear, Madame Bovary, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Bonnie and Clyde—all flagrantly tragic.

Rebirth There is a mounting sense of threat as a dark force approaches the hero until it emerges completely, holding the hero in its deadly grip. Only after a time, when it seems that the dark force has triumphed, does the reversal take place. The hero is redeemed, usually through the life-giving power of love. Many fairy tales take this shape; also, works like Silas Marner and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Mystery. This appeared from the time of Edgar Allan Poe. From Sherlock Holmes to C.S.I. Miami, the plot that involves solving a riddle has gained immense popularity in the last 150 years.

In addition, every story needs three characters. This includes stories in the sales process. In simple terms, they are:

Hero. King Arthur, Dorothy of Kansas, Sherlock Holmes, and Luke Skywalker all have something in common. They are the protagonist that propel the story.

Villain.  Professor Moriarty, the Napoleon of crime in the Sherlock Holmes story, is master antagonist. So are old man Potter, Nazis who want the Lost Ark and the Wicked Witch of the West (“I will get you, my little pretty, and your dog too!). Often antagonist is a better term.

Guardian. Heroes can’t do it on their own. They need training. Sometimes they need a gentle hand to get them back on the right road. Clarence the Angel, Merlin and Obi-Wan Kenobi are there to fill this critical need.

To learn why you should not be the hero of the sales stories you tell (except for one story), please come to the event on February 8. I will also share the other three elements every great story must have. Here is a hint: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away a man once said “Luke, I am your father.” For the rest of the story, you need to join me bright and early on February 8, 2011.

About Henry DeVries

Best-selling author and “marketing with a book” expert Henry DeVries is an authority on typing and talking: how to maximize revenues by writing books and making speeches. He speaks to thousands of business leaders, professionals, and consultants each year, teaching them successful tactics that shine a spotlight on their company, cause, or career. Along with his best-selling books — Self-Marketing Secrets, Client Seduction, Pain Killer Marketing, and How to Close a Deal Like Warren Buffett — the buzz-building tools of Henry DeVries have been used to dramatically increase revenues and leverage marketing budgets for two decades. He speaks to thousands of professionals and consultants each year, teaching them scientifically proven tactics that bring them new clients.

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